The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a petition from two environmental groups to have logging operations stopped in Norbeck Wildlife Preserve.
It marks the end of Friends of the Norbeck and Native Ecosystems Council’s battle against the U.S. Forest Service and the Norbeck Wildlife Project.
The Forest Service has maintained that the project is important to protecting wildlife habitat, reducing fire risk and fighting the mountain pine beetle.
Black Hills National Forest Supervisor Craig Bobzien said he understands that there are passionate people involved with the projects in and around Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, which is near Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. With this decision, he said, the project continues, and those involved can see it through to the finish.
“The Norbeck area and wildlife project itself is one of the highest interest areas we have in the Black Hills Forest,” Bobzien said. “They are public forests, as part of our overall responsibility, and my job in managing forest land is to work with public and best interest of the public.”
In January 2011, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed a complaint by the two environmental groups. The groups had argued the project was contrary to the provisions of federal law. The district judge ruled there were other remedies not exhausted by the Friends of Norbeck before its action in federal court.
In November a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals sided with the earlier judge’s ruling. The Supreme Court’s decision not to take the case leaves the appeals court with the final ruling, allowing work in the Norbeck to continue.
“We can now appropriately continue with the Norbeck forestry plan to preserve our forest,” South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said.
Friends of Norbeck spokesman Brian Brademeyer could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Another challenge to the Forest Service’s overall plan is ongoing in Wyoming federal court. Four environmental groups sued the Forest Service in October 2010, saying the agency was allowing “extreme levels” of logging that were damaging plants and wildlife habitat.
Last month, a judge granted requests by South Dakota and Wyoming to intervene in the lawsuit because of their interests in decisions affecting the forest.